Archive for October, 2014|Monthly archive page

Disproportions III

In Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, RLB trivia on October 31, 2014 at 8:06 am

I couldn’t care less about Halloween this morning. In twenty minutes, members of the Regional Council will sit down to a meeting. Among other agenda items, labelled with maximum innocuity: what happens next at Sivens (not that the word appears in so many letters). Reps from all sides of the debate have mounted ludicrous verbal barricades ranging from operatic excess to flat-out lying with solemn faces. They have done so at the local, regional and national level.  Meanwhile, authorities give three different versions of how a young man died during clashes with gendarmes who weren’t supposed to be on the site that weekend. Peaceful demonstrators get truncheoned, caught between a minority aggressive fringe  and gendarmes armed for battle.

Previous experiences with the political process don’t leave me filled with optimism on the ultimate outcome of this latest yawning gap between official doctrine and the reality of the world outside the scripted and choreographed performances in front of the cameras.


With things to do, story to move forward, paperwork, meetings, and fingers that grow numb if I sit and type in my apartment. Winter’s coming. I look at my tall and drafty French doors and the condensation on them . Low whimper. Maybe I’ll move my laptop and my person over to the library. Get myself locked in at night? Hm, there’s a thought.

Disproportions II

In Current reading, Irish Mist, Local projects, Music, Poetry, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Theater on October 30, 2014 at 8:01 am

Some things get written into story right away. Some, not. They stay on the sidelines, in handwritten notes, gathering strength. Such is the brief exchange I jotted down yesterday. It will occur at the very end of the final section, or close to it.

Out in the world of real, an accumulation of ugly words this morning. A din of ugliness aimed from every quarter at the opponents to the dam project. “Green Jihadists”, “Eco Terrorists” etc. Something surreal in press releases where both the ultra-right and the Socialists speak the same words? I only wish. Perhaps if people read Chomsky? – not that I expect any of our political leaders to do so, either in Europe or in North America. State security does not mean security for a State’s inhabitants, that much is clear. The Rule of Law knows many interpretations, not to mention exceptions and/or quaint provisions.

Will the lines appear in the story per se? Will I simply keep them close by as I work my way through the missing pieces? I don’t know. They are close by at any rate. Spoken by Caliban in Act 3  Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Well-known words for those who know the play. Sometimes, the better known words take on an unexpected richness; unexpected nuances of meaning. The words :


Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,

Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices,

That if I then had waked after long sleep,

Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming

the clouds methought would open and show riches

ready to drop upon me, that when I waked

I cried to dream again.

Useful words to bear in mind through the din of ugly sounds. Maybe I’ll add them at the very end, like an afterthought to the two characters’ words, or an echo to the quote that opens the story.


In Artists, Circus, Current reading, Irish Mist, Local projects, Music, Revision, Sanford Meisner on October 29, 2014 at 7:02 am

Many questions come to mind, after the death of a young man at Sivens this weekend. Long (and useful) debates too, on notions of non-violence vs aggression.

For now, the one question that keeps on resonating for me – well expressed by a young woman who was there: why were the governmental security forces on the premises? An agreement had been struck with the organizers of a peaceful opposition to the dam project. All expensive equipment requiring surveillance: removed from the construction site.

All, save a generator. Considered non-essential, or left behind with a purpose in mind. If the second option holds true, it served its purpose: radicals or anarchists or provocateurs or take-your-pick  motley combos burned down the generator on Friday night. The security forces came back, well equipped for combat. Those who consider rumbling against the cops part of their god-given right/mission/purpose on earth  obliged and played their part in the scenario. Present confirmed evidence: Rémi’s death was caused by the explosion of a grenade of the type used by the gendarmes.

All’s not quiet in the peaceful valleys this morning.

Last night, I gave up on trying to pick out the thread I could move forward in the story revision. Got as much sleep as I could. The faces I see in the news bulletins are faces of people I know. The places I see in the photos: same. I loathe violence – no matter who’s committing it. I understand full well the fifty year old pacifist who is still stunned over the fact that he, of all people, could ram into a police officer, head first.

I also happen to work with many, many people dispossessed of just about everything. Not all of them have lost their clear-sightedness in the process. How much posturing and grandstanding can such people take before, like the fifty-year old disciple of Gandhi, they just can’t take any more? Not to mention the ones who weren’t clear-sighted to begin with and who lose their cool the minute you look at them. Or the ones who never figured a voice raised in song would receive a truncheon in reply.

Someone in the draft will have to move forward according to Meisner’s “living truthfully in imaginary circumstances.”

Some coffee, first, after the morning lot of news reports.

Ode to Stupidity? No thanks, enough of it around already

In A post to keep afloat, Artists, Current reading, Irish Mist, Poetry, Revision on October 28, 2014 at 7:55 am

The lowest of the low points in the man’s public intervention: the few minutes before the official press conference when he deigns to answer a question concerning the death of a young man killed by an explosion during clashes with riot police this weekend. The man lifts a line from a song by Georges Brassens and says, in effect: “Dying for ideas is pretty stupid.” However, he adds, his thoughts go to the family, of course. He moves on to remind those present of the occupation of the building by protesters. Not a word about posting riot police after a deal was struck not to do so. Not a word about so-called non-lethal crowd control implements used in non-regulated ways. Tear gas canisters aren’t supposed to be fired straight into someone’s face. “Non-lethal” bullets aren’t supposed to be aimed straight into a human body at close range. Blinding and ear-shattering grenades aren’t supposed to land smack dab next to an unarmed man.

Stupidity thrives best inside a locked mental grid. I’m reminded of a much less dramatic circumstance, over fifteen years ago, when I refused to back up my car to allow an easier flow of traffic. Why did I refuse? Because I was in a bad mood, I was late, I knew I should back up, and I felt like a stupid idiot. So I decided to behave as one and refused to budge despite honking and angry drivers giving me the finger. An asshole, and proud of it. So there. The most serious consequence of my stupidity? Knowing I’m capable of behaving like an idiot. The most serious consequence of this man’s stupidity? A death, plus the growing anger and resentments that feed violence.

Meanwhile, the recently appointed Minister of Culture has no time for novels and such other wasteful uses of her attention span. We eats Algo-Rithm for breakfast, boyz and gurlz. Let’s all fill our bowls with juicy, crunchy, good-for-ya Algo!

Voilà. Therefore, I split my time in useful ways between reading, writing, attending to my own needs and those of others; and taking in every measurable bit of human intelligence and sensitivity I meet. This makes for a divided attention span. Our present Minister of Culture would not approve.

Current reading involves way too much contact with press releases and way too little with poetry, theater, and long or short fiction. Not to worry: I cram in as much as I can anyway.

 et vogue vogue les petits navires



A Messy World (II)

In Current reading, Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision on October 27, 2014 at 8:23 am

This is an important read. I don’t know for how long the link will stay active. For future reference, the article appears in the October 26, 2014 edition of The New York Times. With a by-line by Ravi Somaiya, the title reads : How Facebook is Changing the Way its Users Consume Journalism. In essence, a mathematical code, designed by a Facebook employee, drives what you find (or don’t) on your Facebook page. You clicked Like on something? Expect more items of the same kind. More news, more photos, more links that reflect your tastes – as defined by an algorithm.

Your reasons for clicking (or not clicking) the Like button? Who cares; you clicked; you like; you get more. How far are we from the bar-press releasing a food pellet to the lab rat? Right next door, folks. The rats had better stay clever or else they’ll find themselves locked into “echo chambers” – all the reverb saying exactly what they want to hear and nothing else.

Google does it already. Your search terms determine which pages will show up highest on your next search.

Unless the whole system collapses – or unless you choose to live in a cavern away from the world and all its sins –  there’s no turning back. There’s only dealing with what is and staying as alert as possible  to the inner signals that say:with all due consideration, this matters to me, this doesn’t. Accepting the necessary discomforts of being wrong, at times, along with the satisfaction of getting it right; of being challenged; of being confused and uncertain. Of making sense of my own sensations, thoughts and experiences – in the face of what someone else holds to be truer than true, in total contradiction to what seems oh-so-obvious and unassailable to me.

A twenty-one year old man died here over the weekend, during clashes with riot police over the dam project at Sivens. Circumstances of his death still unclear. The Experts’ Report is said to support the views of the opponents to the project. What happens next: still unclear, beyond a temporary halt to the work that should be announced today. As a friend said last night: precious little grounds for rejoicing.

Life’s never been simple. It’s not about to get simpler. I try to choose my craziness as best I can. Try to insure it involves as much living and laughing as possible for me and others, even through the inevitable tears. What can I say. Craziness is like everything else. I like the kind that makes kids laugh – including the little kid on the back seat of my inner vehicle.

To whom I dedicate Oscar:


Oscar and my personal inner-kid will do their best to make this Monday as manageable as possible for the grownup me and those the grownup encounters. Allez? Allez.


It’s a messy world

In Film, Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, RLB trivia, Sanford Meisner on October 26, 2014 at 6:44 am

I wish I could say who the personable young man is. I’ve been away from Canada for too long to know the political players who now stand before a flurry of Provincial flags and read their prepared notes in even, well-modulated voices. Some seven hundred thousand people, including my daughter, have clicked the Like button on his speech. I am not one of them.

Full respect for other people’s likes and dislikes (at least, within boundaries that don’t extend to rape and other tortures, murder, pillage and plunder). Full respect for other people’s choices – at least, when I’m doing the equivalent of standing before a flurry of Provincial flags. In other words, when I am in a safe, secure environment in which no intruders dare break in and mess with my neat and tidy self. Not that I loathe neat, tidy and safe. To whit: I’m thrilled at the thought my kitchen may prove to be the warmest space in the apartment this winter, thanks to the intervention of a carpenter friend. I love hot water when I shower. I enjoy sleeping on a mattress with clean bedding, none of which has soaked in the rain from a sidewalk or a dripping roof. I like my creature comforts as much as the next person does.

If any Canadian restraint appears in my overall makeup, it is of another kind: more and more and more, I refuse to play in fixed games. This limits the numbers of games I can play? The number of clubs/associations/closed circles to which I’m admitted? Makes me look like a sore loser? That’s too bad. I write my stories according to what moves me. I shut up – often. A lot. When I don’t, I live with what I’ve said and how I’ve said it.

Story: not made any easier by how I choose to live my life. Je suis qui je suis. I am who I am. I prefer laughing but I have nothing against honest tears. Sometimes, life hurts a lot. Rejection hurts like hell but, at least, it’s honest. Nobody said honesty made for prettier group portraits.

Saw an excellent film yesterday by Andrey Zviaguintsev – Leviathan. My only astonishment about it: the fact the film maker got funding and support from the Ministry of Culture in Russia. My favorite line in the film: when the local police chief organizes a shooting gallery with the framed photos of previous leaders, up to Eltsin. “We don’t have enough historical perspective on the others yet,” he says. (This, among other things, explaining my astonishment.)


Amid a swirl of objects, projects, and an eye on the clock

In Animals, Artists, Current reading, Irish Mist, Local projects, Music, Revision, RLB trivia, Theater on October 25, 2014 at 6:32 am

Pulling things together for this morning’s workshop in Gaillac. The apartment looks like a swirl of objects in random mixes – the fridge in the living room, dishes, food, books, clothes in close co-habitation. The snug, insulated kitchen cupboard should be finished when I get home.

The carpenter gets most of his top-quality materials through legal scrounging and recycling. A few local business outlets have figured out there’s value to paying less for their waste disposal by offering picking rights. Ergo: a retrofitted unit that replaces the cavernous space I used to joke about, calling it a duplex apartment for illegal immigrants. (Yesterday, the carpenter demonstrated  by fitting easily into the space.

Voilà. Exciting? To others, no. Worth posting? What can I say: as much as possible, I stick to my early morning finger-moving exercise. Even if my mind is as scattered as my belongings at the moment. Thoughts ranging from this afternoon’s demonstration (do I make it there with the shuttle services/once there, how do I get back/where do I stash my teaching materials or do I lug them around till my knees give out). Through the astounding short-sightedness of the European deputies who chose Tibor Navracsis as Commissioner for Youth, Education, Culture and Sports. “We had to give Culture to someone,” a deputy commented. Yes, of course. So why not to an ultranationalist (this is the polite way to describe extreme right-wingers at the moment) who did his damnedest to curtail free speech in his country?

Story in all this? Surviving, thank you very much. Progressing at a slower rate than hoped for, but alive and well for all that.

Current reading in the nooks and crannies: The Tempest. Listening to the voices in my head as I read the various parts. Prospero is younger by one or two decades from the last time I read the play. Interesting.

Allez? The dog is of that opinion.

Raiders of the Lost NR4 (OAS)

In Fun, Games, Irish Mist, Local projects, Music, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Theater on October 24, 2014 at 6:41 am

Agent 2, it was. After I lost the connection to the scratchy recording of Haendel (this was Revenue Canada, the canned music has cultural aspirations; day before yesterday, it was opera). At any rate, when Haendel died out, I lost Agent 1 in the process. Agent 1 – whose attitude the previous day veered close to insufferable – had a change of heart yesterday evening when  the incredible happened. There he was speaking to the same person as he was the day before. The person was calling from France and he remembered her! This prompted a “doux Jésus” from Donald (Agent 1 – I’m not at liberty to divulge his badge number).

Agent 2 explained how incredible this was and why it was unlikely he could connect me back to Agent 1. “There are thousands of us, Madame. I have no idea who Donald is.” Agent 2 found a way to pass me on to Agent 3 who slid the puck to Agent 4 who suggested I contact Section 13 at Revenue Canada or try the folks at Service Canada.

All right. Franz Kafka – The Trial + The Castle. Haven’t read either in ages. Methinks I’ll borrow them from the médiathèque; then,  nod and laugh in all the wrong places.

At Service Canada, the agents have no badge number, just a first name. The canned music is of the stalled elevator variety. I connected with three (3) different agents before my brief bonding with Sylvie. Who assured me A)she got my facts straight; B) she was expediting an email requesting that a copy of my NR4(OAS) be mailed to me forthwith; C) assured me the payment of my Old Age Pension would be reinstated; D) and went so far as to say sums due since July would be remitted to me, but I won’t go out and buy a Mercedes just yet.

Voilà. Now, with a little bit of luck and cunning, I may get some of yesterday’s scribbled notes transferred into the ongoing revision, and make ready for tomorrow’s workshop in Gaillac. Several new players signed up for the session tomorrow so it will be like managing a multi-level classroom – some with their skits almost done, some discovering  they have one to produce for public consumption in December.

There’s precious little time left over for the boring parts. Even during the scratchy bits of canned Haendel where I concentrate on visions of thousands of men and women with ear phones, repeating scripted responses to angry or desperate queries while hoping to sweet Jesus they can make it to the weekend and a chance to party for a few hours. Hail to thee, o Tethered Ones. Brave new world, and all that.

This morning’s baseline

In Animals, Current reading, Irish Mist, Local projects, Music, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Story material on October 23, 2014 at 7:12 am

Once, during her six-month contract at minimum wage, she was sent to fix the walls at an old couple’s house. The woman, overweight and dirty, sat in her rocker the whole time, and stared at the TV screen. The man paced. The length and breadth of his allotted space, the way stabled horses do. On the second or the third day, he approached her while she worked and said: “I worked all my life to get to this point. Next, I’ll die.” As it happened, his wife died first. He followed suit within the next six months.

Cheery: no. Lots of less-than cheery stuff around. No need to scour headlines, life and neighbors are more than obliging. Not to mention all the trudging involved to get the simplest matters sorted out. Or the multiple requests to do your share on this project or that other. Solidarity. Bread and roses. Walk On and You’ll Never Walk Alone.

This isn’t about knocking bread or roses or solidarity. I love all three. Wouldn’t mind seeing more good times being had by all, including me.  This is about hurt at the most basic levels – hurt in body, in mind, in spirit. Denial of basic needs for basic goodness: of air, water, decent food, decent work, not to mention someone you love and who loves you. Hurts caused by some on others. Denial of basic rights. Plus rape, torture and all the rest of the horrors some inflict on others.

Reading reviews last night about Steven Mithen’s book The Singing Neanderthals. Because of the piece of fiction I’m revising. Also as antidote to the sound of certain voices heard in the day. Voices made harsh by anger, boredom, annoyance, fear.

Bodies. Pulling, pushing, climbing. Bodies, holding, giving, taking, sharing. Bodies in pain, bodies in pleasure, bodies in comfort, bodies in sleep. Bodies with their stored memories and yearnings.

The full title of Smithen’s book: The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005


In Animals, Artists, Current reading, Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision on October 22, 2014 at 7:45 am

Hooting calls – monkeys, for example. The hoot isn’t the same if the hooter signals the presence of a ground predator, a flying one or a snake. Stands to reason: not much point in racing down the tree to plop yourself between the jaws of your neighborhood’s saber-toothed constable.

Tonal languages – Chinese, for instance. You pronounce a sound combination at the wrong pitch, you may get a shocked or angry response when all you meant to say was: so glad to meet you.

Mixed signals: you respond to a friendly wave only to discover it was meant for someone standing behind you. Or your interest in someone is genuine, yet fraught with uncertainties. Make another move? Wait for a clearer picture?

The straightforward stuff: Stop signs. Green traffic lights.

Up the ante: a hunger striker drinks honeyed water and vegetable juice. Fraud, cries an onlooker. I doubt the onlooker has ever tried to get by on a similar diet but never mind. The onlooker strikes the chord of uncertainty.  The what if. What if I’m wrong? What if I’m missing the obvious?

What if of the paralyzing kind.

What if you trust your gut? Doesn’t mean you won’t have a hell of a time of it sometimes. Doesn’t mean you won’t experience let-downs, sadness, physical and emotional pain. Certainly doesn’t mean you won’t die at some point.

Signals. Stop, look and listen, for sure. Take heed and thank the one who points out an unseen danger. Then collect yourself, check your own inner radar, and go.

It was great reading Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea again last night, over fifty years after the first and only other time. The precision. The seamless craftsmanship. The emotion, as present, sustaining, unpredictable and elusive as the sea under Santiago’s skiff.

Allez. Things to write. Things to do.